Not really a comic by Eddie Campbell and Daren White. Two-three panels a page with captions describing 'the sex life of a celibate middle-aged man' (as the back cover puts it), but no speech bubbles or directly reported conversation. More accurate to describe it as a picture book, such that children would read perhaps, except this portrays an overgrown child who is going through the process of sexual awakening in his 50s. In fact, the book starts with stray snatches of nursery rhymes – Georgie Porgie and Jack Horner. The former's kisses make girls cry and he runs away when the boys come out to play. The latter sticks his thumb in the pie and pulls out a plum – sexual innocence and experience across one page.
At the end of the book the protagonist finds love and gives up his writing career, so there is a very clear link being made between celibacy (or social inadequacy) and creativity. This reminded me (of all things) of Stuart Murdoch's incredible burst of creativity after recovering from the long illness he had as a teenager. In the documentary for Pitchfork, he described the way he would ride the busses around the town and think up stories about the randoms he saw around him. The songs were catalysed by a mixture of isolation and desire – not just sexual but for any kind of human contact. Once he had mined out that rich songwriting seam, (those first two Belle & Sebastian albums) he felt comfortable handing over to the other members of the band (which produced mixed results).
The idea of imagination as indicative of a lack of something in your life is not new, but it makes sense. The motive force for creating any kind of art must be some sort of frustration with reality as it is. The authors of The Playwright don't write plays, but they recognise this underlying urge animating their drawing and writing, and choose to focus their attention particularly on sublimation. True sensation wipes out the need for words and pictures. The end of the book is almost a warning to the reader – we can't escape our obsessive need to create, but you can. Close this volume, leave the house, and run out into the world.